http://edition.cnn.com/2011/US/01/11/arizona.funeral.westboro/?hpt=Mid

 

 Tucson, Arizona (CNN) -- The Arizona legislature is expected to pass legislation Tuesday targeting a Kansas church whose members have announced they plan to picket the funerals of the victims of Saturday's shootings in Tucson.

 

The proposed legislation would make it a misdemeanor to protest within 300 feet of a funeral from one hour before until one hour after a funeral, a spokesman for the state House said.

 

The action, according to House spokesman Daniel Scarpinato, is in direct response to the Westboro Baptist Church's announcement that it will picket the funeral of Christina Green, the 9-year-old who was among six people killed during Saturday's attempted assassination of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Arizona.

 

The controversial church, based in Topeka, has made its name by staging protests at funerals of people who died of AIDS, gay people, soldiers and even Coretta Scott King.

 

Within hours of the church's announcements, Facebook groups sprang up to plan actions surrounding the funerals that would keep the church members -- most members of the extended family of church founder Fred Phelps -- separate from the mourners.

 

Tucson just isn't that kind of town, says Christin Gilmer, 26, referring to the actions of the church.

 

"For something like this to happen in Tucson was a really big shock to us all," she said. "Our nightmare happened when we saw Westboro Baptist Church was going to picket the funerals."

 

Gilmer and others are planning an "angel action" -- with 8- by 10-foot "angel wings" worn by participants to shield mourners from picketers. Angel actions were created by Coloradan Romaine Patterson, who was shocked to find the Topeka church and its neon signs outside the 1999 funeral of Matthew Shepard, a young gay man beaten and left on a fence to die in Laramie, Wyoming.

 

The angel action is part of a larger group, organized by Chelsea Cohen, a 20-year-old University of Arizona senior, aimed at showing Tucson's true colors.

 

"Once I heard that the Westboro Baptist Church was coming, I felt like something should be done to show support for the families," she said. "I don't have any experience in organizing these things. I thought I might get 50 to 100 people."

 

"This isn't a counterprotest," she said. "We wanted it to show support for the families and to show that Tucson is there with love and support."

 

The groups don't want to interfere with the funeral in any way, Cohen said.

 

"We plan on being completely silent, and we're asking people not to bring signs or make comments about the Westboro Baptist Church," she said.

 

Jeff Rogers, chairman of the Pima County Democratic Party, said Tuesday that his organization as well as the local Republican Party also will ask people to line the funeral routes to form a barricade if the church follows through on its planned protest.

 

While Tucson residents leapt into action, so, too, did the legislature. Both the state House and Senate simlutaneously will consider separate bills Tuesday afternoon. Both require a 2/3 majority to pass. Once both chambers have passed their respective bills, each chamber will discuss and vote on the other chamber's bill.

 

Arizona officials say the three-paragraph bill is based on measures passed in other states that have been upheld by courts.

 

Westboro Baptist Church spokeswoman Shirley Phelps-Roper, daughter of Fred Phelps, provided CNN with a statement detailing their decision to picket the funerals. It is filled with the usual anti-gay, anti-abortion and anti-divorce church members used to justify their pickets -- that God hates America because it has turned its back on what they see as God's way.

 

"We picket the funerals to make these vital points to the living!" Phelps-Roper said. "If you heed, it is life and health and peace and safety.

 

"God sent the shooter! Praise God for ALL his works, and BE YE THANKFUL!."

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I'm not even going to be remotely subtle about it: the Westboro Baptist Church is an absolute, fucking abomination. They are worse than I ever thought human beings could possibly get. I want to fucking puke on Fred Phelps' face.

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